A Paleontology Network Inquiry Consortium: Impact on Teacher Practice

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The Paleontology Science Network Inquiry Consortium consists of a University School of Education and Geology Department and 20 regional schools districts. The pilot group of twenty secondary science teachers represented eighteen schools from these districts. The program was designed to meet the following program objectives. (a) Increased knowledge of science discipline, (b) Knowledge of inquiry-based pedagogy, (c) Skill development in teaching in a standards-based classroom, (d) Support for implementing science inquiries in classrooms. The program goal was to help experienced science teachers do inquiry-based science in their classroom. The pilot group were experienced, successful teachers, traditional in nature, have not done inquiry prior to the program but expressed interest in learning how to do successful inquiry. Four domains composed this research agenda. (a) The teacher beliefs about inquiry and their belief about their ability to implement in classroom, (b) The teachers knowledge base for implementing inquiry, (c) The teacher inquiry/research experience, (d) The student's science learning from teacher-designed, inquiry-based instruction, including conceptual knowledge, reasoning, and the nature of science. The project objective was to investigate the teacher's attitudes about their readiness to implement an inquiry and to determine whether they actually were able to implement a meaningful student inquiry.

Keywords: Education - teacher education, geoscience- science; geology - paleontology

THE PALEONTOLOGY CONSORTIUM

The Paleontology Network Inquiry Consortium consists of a university School of Education and Geology Department and 20 regional school districts. The consortium was initiated in the fall 2000 semester. The initial pilot program began the following fall. The first group of twenty secondary science teachers represented eighteen schools from these districts. The program was designed to meet all of the following objectives.

A) Increased understanding of science discipline

B) Introduction to inquiry-based pedagogy and other advanced teaching methods

C) Skill development in teaching in a standards-based classroom

D) Introduction of paleontology research techniques that are appropriate to secondary science.

E) Support for implementation of new science inquiries into classrooms.

The program goal is to help experienced science teachers introduce inquiry-based science into their classroom - learn how to do it, have content, resources, and skills to do it effectively. The pilot group in this study is com posed of seasoned, successful teachers, generally traditional in nature, who did not use an inquiry approach to teaching prior to the program but expressed an interest in learning how to create successful inquiry activities for their students.

SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY

Today's reform rhetoric has labeled the use of inquiry as representing the essence of science education (Keys & Bryan, 2001). Documents such as the National Science Education Standards are promoting inquiry as the "central strategy for teaching science."

The challenge to incorporate meaningful inquiry into secondary science courses is especially difficult when dealing with experienced science teachers that view their present methodology of lecture and labs with pre-determined results as successful. Many teachers' belief that the nature of science is an objective body of knowledge created by a rigid scientific method (Brickhouse, 1990; Duschl & Wright, 1989; Gallagher, 1991) impedes inquiry-based teaching. The aim of this network is to help teachers understand that science is not just a body of immutable facts but a statement of our current knowledge of the natural world. The use of an inquiry based approach in a science classroom leads students to realize the way science is carried out and be more likely to understand and retain the principles and concepts being taught. …